Wednesday, September 18, 2019

We Need An Attitude of Gratitude

It’s all in our head
Hey, we’re not kids you know. We’re adults, some of us very mature adults. We have known about the facts of life for a long time…..long enough to know that those 'facts' come in more than one version.
How about this fact? Simply put, we live life in our head, in our mind. It was that way as experience-seeking adolescents, learning to cope with an exciting new world. And it is that way today, after all the miles we’ve traveled.
By October and November we realize how much of our life's journey…..mental, emotional, and spiritual…..has been played out in our mind. If that time of life describes you, you know how those mind-trips can feel…..for instance, the mornings when you wake up wondering why it is happening to you…..again.

We know about those late-life speed bumps
The particular complaints are an individual matter. They might be physical. Maybe your aging body is again rebelling and you know for sure that your youthful resiliency is no longer in play. Perhaps it hurts to simply move around, especially at that early morning hour.
On the other hand your problem may be mental, something as simple as remembering what the coming day holds for you….. important details that were indelibly etched in your memory hours, or minutes ago, but now seem just out of reach.
Or what about the most aggravating stumbling blocks of all, the emotional rumblings that so often contribute to a restless night’s sleep, then remain to haunt our waking hours? They come in many forms, those nagging concerns we label “worries.”
You know the routine. We may fret about our family. Who knew we would still be worrying about kids and grandkids at our age? Money, or the lack of it, may be a worry. And what about our health.....those concerns comes naturally at our age, don’t they? Yet no matter what creates the anxiety, most of us know that once those distressing thoughts take hold they are hard to shake.

When the negative takes charge
       At any age, but especially in late-life, there are so many things to be anxious about, if we are so inclined. Though we may consider those concerns to be warning signs, telling us that something in our life needs to change, we are rarely thankful for the ‘worry’ they create. 
       No matter what the “problem de jour” may be, it is likely to include one distressing is probably negative, something we wish would go away and leave us  alone.
How do those ‘negatives’…..petty or not …..affect us? I suppose that depends. I believe that in the course of a lifetime experience and our own natural inclination have combined to create a personal understanding of the world we inhabit. From an early age we learn to view our world through that filter… welcoming and friendly, dark and threatening, or somewhere in between. Given where we are on that positive-negative continuum we will usually act accordingly.
Still, though we can’t simply turn off those negative worries, who wants to stay in that depressing space when there might be a better way? Why not turn away from that, to a more positive and accepting view of the world and our place it in?

Can we make way for the positive?
We can do that, you know. It’s not easy, but even in our darkest, most depressing moments we can take time to recognize the ways we have been blessed, the reasons we have to be thankful in spite of our problems. 
Still, when a truly distressing worry gets its hooks in us simply reciting an off-setting blessing, no matter how real it is, may not be enough to chase it away, at least not at first. 
       The logic behind that is simple enough. We tell ourselves that we are supposed to be blessed. Good things are meant to happen to us. That is the way things ought to be. Why then should we be especially thankful for what is ‘supposed to be’.….. especially in the face of a worrisome problem that is most certainly not ‘supposed to be’?
In spite of that fragile logic we have to carry on in the face of aging reality and concerns that are not easily dismissed. Still, no matter how hard it is, seeking and living out our blessings, the positive moments that are part of every life, is a powerful way to make the most of our Becoming. Whatever path we rely on, whether religious faith, our own meditative practice, or stubborn will power, the goal of existential thankfulness seems worth the effort.

How about a change in attitude
As you might have guessed, I have something to sell today. Perhaps like me your mother used to remind you to "Count your blessings." That seems to me another way of addressing the "existential thankfulness" I mentioned above. Hopefully that is something you can buy into.
     To help make that notion more real I have given it a name. I call the mindset I want to earn for myself and hopefully sell to you, an Attitude of Gratitude......what I consider an early Thanksgiving in action. 
      Of course, simply counting your blessings will not end our worries, though it can help put things in perspective. Still, I am convinced that focusing on at least some of the reasons we have to be grateful is an effective way to move beyond the negative burden of our accumulated worries. 
      Truth to tell, it was one of those affirming moments that brought me here today, putting these thoughts on paper.         
      We know there is more than one way to draw the positive into our lives. For instance, I happen to appreciate compliments. Who doesn’t? Everyone likes them, especially when they seem sincere. Whether about my stories and blog posts, my family, or my feeble efforts to lose weight, It feels good when folks notice, and are willing to express their opinion. 
        With that, perhaps you can imagine how blessed I felt the other morning when this brief scene played out.

Hey Good Looking
Nearly two years after his original diagnosis the doctor, who had just viewed my once-cancerous bladder up close and personal, set his scope aside. He was smiling as he said, “That is a good-looking bladder you have there, with no sign of trouble.” Then, lest I get too cocky, he added, “Of course, we’ll want to continue the periodic treatments to be sure it stays that way.”
Look, I’m a low-key sort of guy, not the kind to brag about my bladder, kidneys, liver, pancreas, or whatever. I'm just not that kind of fellow.
         But let me tell you, when it comes to an ‘Attitude of Gratitude' moment the doctor’s apparently sincere compliment of my “good looking, cancer-free bladder” was about as positive as it gets, more than enough to push aside the low-grade anxiety that usually accompanies my six-month check ups. 
         Truth is, because I live life in my head, I expect this bit of Gratitude Attitude to last a while. Right now any reasons I have to worry about anything at all will just have to wait a while